New York Times: For the first time since the Hurricane Katrina crisis, President Bush returned yesterday to dealing with festering global problems, trying to bolster Iraq’s president at the White House and then flying to New York to urge President Hu Jintao of China to join him in trying to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. New York Times
By DAVID E. SANGER
For the first time since the Hurricane Katrina crisis, President Bush returned yesterday to dealing with festering global problems, trying to bolster Iraq’s president at the White House and then flying to New York to urge President Hu Jintao of China to join him in trying to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
Mr. Bush’s meeting with Mr. Hu was delayed a week by the hurricane, and was the first in a series planned for coming months, including a trip by Mr. Bush to China in November.
When the session finally took place yesterday at the Waldorf-Astoria, Mr. Bush was lobbying hard to persuade Mr. Hu – who has nurtured a close relationship with Iran – not to block action by the International Atomic Energy Agency next week to refer Iran’s work on uranium enrichment to the Security Council.
“We didn’t come away with a clear commitment,” Michael J. Green, the top official for Asia in the National Security Council, said yesterday evening. But he added that Mr. Hu had agreed to urge Iran to follow the mandates of the I.A.E.A.
Nuclear issues, trade and Taiwan dominated the meeting at the Waldorf, before Mr. Bush held a reception for more than 170 world leaders who have gathered for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly and a meeting on global poverty.
Mr. Bush’s aides also turned over to Mr. Hu a list of human rights cases that particularly concern the United States, Mr. Green said. While they declined to describe most of those cases, Mr. Green said one involved Zhao Yan, a researcher for The New York Times in Beijing, who has been accused of leaking state secrets to the newspaper. Mr. Zhao and The Times have denied the accusation, and Mr. Zhao has had no court hearing or any public explanation of why he was arrested.
Earlier yesterday, at a news conference in Washington with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq, Mr. Bush expressed some impatience with Iran’s defiance of an agreement it reached last year with three European nations.
“Some of us are wondering why they need civilian nuclear power anyway,” Mr. Bush said. “They’re awash with hydrocarbons. Nevertheless, it’s a right of a government to want to have a civilian nuclear program.”
Mr. Bush’s aides insisted later in the day that the president was not, with that last statement, signaling a greater willingness to allow either Iran or North Korea to acquire what both have said is their right: control over the complete nuclear fuel cycle, the path to making fuel for either civilian reactors or weapons. Mr. Bush explicitly said Iran’s nuclear program should develop “in such a way that they don’t gain the expertise necessary to be able to enrich.”
But his comments were far milder than they were three years ago, when Mr. Bush first called Iran and North Korea part of an “axis of evil.”
Instead, Mr. Green said, Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush talked about ways to pressure North Korea to make what Mr. Green called “a strategic decision” to give up its weapons programs.
Talks on North Korea resumed in Beijing yesterday, with North Korea repeating, as Iran has, that it has a right to develop its own civilian nuclear programs.
While Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush carefully chose words to show their agreement on the issue – “We have always stood for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Hu said – some administration officials say they are increasingly concerned that the United States and Tokyo are pursuing one approach, and Beijing and South Korea are pursuing another.
The United States has made full disarmament of North Korea its priority. But both the Chinese and the South Koreans have spoken of the need to assure “stability” in North Korea, a code word for making sure that the North Korean government does not collapse.
At moments, the meeting with the Chinese had echoes of the kind of meetings Mr. Bush’s father used to hold with Japan in the late 1980’s when he was trying to lower a fast-widening trade deficit with Japan and used to travel to Tokyo to urge Japan, when its economy seemed to be growing without limit, to pay heed to the damage being done to American workers.
Mr. Hu was ready for that.
“What I would like to express here is that China does not pursue a huge trade surplus in its trade with the United States,” he said. “And we are willing to work with the United States to take effective measures to increase China’s imports from the United States.”
The last statement was especially significant, because Mr. Hu steered clear of committing to any restraints in exports to the United States.
The issue may become even more heated if Hurricane Katrina leads to a downturn in American economic growth. Some of the affected industries in the south compete with Chinese companies, and were already calling for greater government protection.
The earlier meeting with Mr. Talabani was notable for the Iraqi leader’s change of tone on an issue important to Mr. Bush: setting any parameters for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
On Friday in Washington, Mr. Talabani said he believed that American troops would be required for two years. The Washington Post reported Monday that he had said he thought 40,000 to 50,000 American troops could be withdrawn by the end of the year. But yesterday, he recited the White House talking points: that it was impossible, and unwise, to set a deadline. “We will set no timetable for withdrawal, Mr. President,” he said to Mr. Bush.